The President of the European Parliament, and the Prime Minister of Croatia, both believe the European Union’s unified position can hold together in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations.
EU Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Croatian leader Andrej Plenkovic spoke to RTÉ News at the European Parliament in Strasbourg this afternoon, where they reaffirmed their commitment to the border issue.
Following Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s address to the European Parliament last month, Mr Plenkovic became the second EU leader to address MEPs about the future of Europe.
During his opening address the prime minister of the EU’s newest member state - Croatia joined the EU in 2013 - labelled Brexit as "a lose-lose situation. For the UK, for the British people, for the EU as a whole. As a European, I respect it, but I regret it".
The Croatian leader said: "The United Kingdom’s exit is a result of populism and a campaign of disinformation."
Later he added: "We must maintain unity in the process of negotiations. Our future relationship should be based on our mutual interests."
Addressing journalists afterwards, Mr Plenkovic and President Tajani were asked by RTÉ if they believed the EU unity can hold for phase two of the Brexit negotiations.
Mr Plenkovic said that ever since Brexit was mooted back in 2003 he has said it would be a big loss and that this is now the case.
He said he is convinced Brexit is bad for the EU as "we are debating and working on a daily basis, debating an inconvenient and unnecessary process, in uncharted waters".
He added: "I think the unity will hold. I take part in European councils, unfortunately in the format of 27. That’s also not very nice and a convenient situation when one of your colleagues is leaving and the council transforms itself into a different formation.
"The important element is that we are now behind the first phase with solid elements in all three aspects – free movement, Ireland and the financial issues. Now we are in the second but a critical element is what we shall make of the new relationship."
He expressed his hope that a compromise can be found between the EU and UK in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.
The former MEP said: "If you want to leave a project, obviously at the same time you need to establish some sort of contractual relationship which will be akin to something that exists already with other countries that are co-operating with us but are not members.
"And therefore I hope that we shall find a good compromise in the years to come and that the whole process will pass with as little as possible negative elements on the agenda."
On the same issue, President Tajani told RTÉ: "On Brexit, we are united at European Parliament, European Commission, European Council and the member states all together. We are working hard for a good solution.
"Of course for us there are three most important points – citizens’ rights for European citizens living in the UK, the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic, and the financial framework.
"After the first agreement we need to implement this framework and a concrete proposal for a better solution and then we will work hard for a good solution for a vote on Brexit before the vote of 2019."